Movers & Shakers
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The story follows the head of production at a Hollywood studio who wants to make a movie to fulfill a promise made to a dying friend.
Hollywood studio mogul Joe Mulholland (Matthau) vows to produce the pet project of a dying acquaintance, who has been trying to find a way to make a film out of a best-selling sex manual. He and screenwriter Herb Derman (Grodin) try to make it happen, but fail in every possible way. Meanwhile, Herb is distracted by his own marital problems.
Charles Grodin recounts the making of this film in his autobiography, It Would Be So Nice if You Weren't Here:
In the mid-1970s, Paramount Pictures paid a great amount of money to secure the rights to Alex Comfort's sex manual The Joy of Sex just so it could use the title, which studio executives thought to be highly commercial. In 1978, they hired Grodin to write a script, telling him the movie "could be about anything." Grodin decided to use this exact situation as the premise: a Hollywood writer struggles to write a script based on a sex manual after a big studio acquires the rights. When he finished his first draft, the studio passed and eventually released National Lampoon's Joy of Sex in 1984.
After Paramount put Grodin's script in turnaround in 1978, he was free to offer it to other studios. However, since Paramount held the rights to the title The Joy of Sex, the film was retitled Dreamers. Columbia Pictures showed interest in producing it with Peter Falk playing the leading role of the producer. But when the deal with Columbia fell through, Grodin ended up pitching his screenplay to every studio several times over the course of the next seven years. Eventually, director William Asher agreed to make it with a budget of two million dollars if people would defer salaries. This is why Grodin and Asher share a producers credit on the finished film.
Grodin persuaded some of his actor friends to become involved. He, Steve Martin, Gilda Radner, Penny Marshall and Tyne Daly all agreed to work for the least amount of money the union allowed. Martin did so without even reading the script. When the film was finally green-lit, Grodin received no salary for writing or producing it, only the minimum for working five weeks as an actor: about $5,000 for two years of work (seven years in total since the inception of the project).
When the film was finally ready to go in front of the cameras, original lead actor Peter Falk was no longer available. Another well-known comic actor had to drop out when he didn't pass his insurance physical. Walter Matthau agreed to star at the very last minute, receiving $1 million, half his usual fee at the time for his work.
Following not very successful preview screenings, the son of MGM exec Greg Morrison suggested to add narration by Grodin to the picture.
MGM initially refused to pay for the picture nor release it, because "it was not of first-class technical quality" and "does not reflect the screenplay." The film finally got a limited release in several large cities across America. However, because of its small budget ($3.5 million) and all-star cast, it was expected to make money for MGM on video cassette, cable, regular television and foreign sales.
- Walter Matthau as Joe Mulholland
- Charles Grodin as Herb Derman
- Vincent Gardenia as Saul Gritz
- Tyne Daly as Nancy Derman
- Gilda Radner as Livia
- Steve Martin as Fabio
- "Ode", a poem by Arthur O'Shaughnessy credited with popularising the phrase "movers & shakers"
- Movers & Shakers at the Internet Movie Database
- Movers & Shakers at the TCM Movie Database
- Movers & Shakers at AllMovie